EVENTFUL YEAR IN STORE FOR NUCLEAR POWER

Energy generation Taxes will be reduced, but 2017 will still be a year of hard work for both hydro power and nuclear power, according to Torbjörn Wahlborg, Head of BA Generation at Vattenfall. 

Torbjörn Wahlborg first summarises the past year:

"2016 was a good year in terms of generation, with a high level of availability and stable generation. 2016 was a good year for hydro power in terms of generation, and nuclear power had a high level of availability; Forsmark 1 and Ringhals 1 and 4 broke generation records in December. Services Nordic won new contracts, for example, with Vattenfall Distribution and network development on behalf of Fingrid, Finland's equivalent to Svenska Kraftnät."

"But 2017 can be an even better year if we continue to enhance our working methods and avoid a number of simple operational errors which caused stoppages last year."

Improving on a good year. How is that going to be possible?  
"I am confident that it is possible through hard work. The goal is to have reduced the average generation cost for nuclear power by 2021 from just over 30 öre per kWh in 2014/2015 to 19 öre/kWh. It is a big ask, but we will be helped by the fact that the energy tax is going to be removed, which is equivalent to an average of 6-7 öre/kWh. We'll have to manage the rest ourselves, and currently all operations are focused on raising their efficiency and with it their profitability."

That sounds like a thankless task, to focus solely on costs? 
"We are not focusing solely on costs, safety is our top priority. But it's true that we also always have to focus on the business side of things. We are in a tough position with low long-term electricity prices, excess capacity and investment requirements, but we have to accept it and work towards the future. There is also good news; working actively with costs like this produces results."

But what happens to safety when working methods are being streamlined and costs are being cut
"Working more efficiently must never impact on safety, that applies to all activities. Vattenfall is organised in such a way that there are functions at several levels which react if deviations are observed in our safety consciousness. Safety is not someone else's responsibility. It concerns how we all do our jobs – every day."

Vattenfall plans to be fossil-free within a generation. What does this mean for BA Generation?  
"It means never taking the foot off the pedal and being satisfied. Hydro power and nuclear power are distinguished by very low carbon dioxide emissions in their generation. We should be proud of these energy sources' environmental performance. Since 2010 our nuclear power operation has more than halved its already low CO2 emissions over its life-cycle as a whole."

So where are you going to find improvements?
"Electrify transportation. Travelling by car is a significant source of emissions so in with electrified transportation and out with fossil modes of transport. That should be our next major environmental issue. Transportation and construction machinery used within Services Nordic have an impact on the climate. Now we have to think smart and review our transport requirements and vehicle fleets. At the same time we should be proud that Vattenfall is taking a lead in electrifying transport infrastructure."

"Our suppliers of nuclear fuel are continuously working on their climate impact, new energy-efficient modes of production are being introduced. We check that our suppliers are working in an environmentally friendly way. And that also applies to work environment issues."

Is there anything you are particularly proud of in summarising 2016? 
"All our employees. Just consider the re-start of Ringhals 2 after more than two years at a standstill and an extensive refurbishment."

What major events does BA Generation have in front of it this year?  
"Our path towards an efficient phase out of nuclear power is important, it also enables us to create opportunities for long-term operation of our other reactors. The fact is that we want to operate our 1980s reactors a good way into the 2040s."

"In Krümmel and Brunsbüttel in Germany we have started to move the spent nuclear fuel away from the reactors. At Ringhals we are planning for two decisive measures at the same time. We are also planning for an effective decommissioning of Ringhals 1 and 2, at the same time as we want to run Ringhals 3 and 4 for 60 years. We are planning for an investment decision regarding independent core cooling in autumn 2017."

"A somewhat historic event is the forthcoming main hearing in the Swedish Land and Environmental Court for Svensk Kärnbränslehantering, SKB, which is going to be constructing the final repository at Forsmark. Last year the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) established that SKB's KBS-3 method would meet the requirements for radiation safety."

How will nuclear power be affected once the decommissioning of several reactors starts?  
"Some reactors will be decommissioned but more will remain in operation. Nuclear power is a prerequisite for an effective transition. I am confident that this is something the rest of the world will increasingly come round to. At the same time our nuclear power has to produce a commercial return. We are facing decades of interesting, challenging and exciting work, and we have to inform the labour market of this. Just this year we are looking for several hundred new colleagues for nuclear power operations."

What's happening with hydro power then? Hydro power is quietly being modernised. But it is not receiving attention in the way that nuclear power does. 
"The property tax on hydro power will be substantially reduced by 2020. It is needed. Hydro power is Sweden's battery and is a fantastic balancing power. More renewables means more demand for balancing power from hydro, and the technical status of our hydro power plants has never been as good as it is now. Vattenfall invested over 13 billion in maintenance and refurbishments in the period 2002-2016. For example, the turbine of hydro power plant Akkats was damaged in 2008. It took eight years' work to replace one 150 MW unit with two 75 MW units. We gained a lot more flexibility and redundancy. And we generated electricity while the work was taking place."

Services Nordic is going on the offensive in Finland. How are they going to cope with all the new undertakings?
"Well, they'll just have to deliver! We have won several major deals. We are now hoping that more grid companies will discover our competency and that the business moves in the right direction. Furthermore Services Nordic is part of the tender for Ellevio's (formerly Fortum) procurement of services for parts of its network in Sweden. We probably won't win all the tenders, but if we win more contracts then we might also be able to recruit new employees."

Engaged and motivated employees; what does that mean for you?  
"We have to work on our expertise at all times. We have to talk strategy every day – but that has to be followed by action. We must take note of feedback from our employees in a range of ways, including through employee surveys. Where measures are needed, we must implement them. At the same time, each and every one of us must take responsibility for our development."

"Ethnic diversity represents fantastic opportunities for Vattenfall, and here we have only just started. Diversity allows us to develop as a business. It means that we can make it easier for people to enter society. And that makes us all winners."

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